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Who is considered a limited-purpose public figure?

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2021 | Defamation

Defamation law is an important aspect of the entertainment industry in Houston, Texas. A legal team would have to prove actual malice in court to succeed in a defamation case. The court classifies actual malice as knowing that the statements are false or acting with reckless disregard about the statements. People who use defamation claims include public officials, public figures, and limited-purpose public figures.

All-purpose vs. limited-purpose public figures

Under defamation law, there are two types of public figures. All-purpose public figures are people who hold positions of influence and persuasive power. Examples of public figure jobs include professional athletes, movie stars, and leaders of large corporations. Limited-purpose public figures are people who put themselves into controversies to push an agenda. They’re distinguished people in certain fields who deliberately shape debates and use media influence to push their opinions.

The element of malice

Limited-purpose public figures are people who are considered public figures with their particular activities. An example would be the journeymen players of a basketball league. Big players such as Kobe Bryant are all-purpose public figures. To use actual malice in court, limited-purpose public figure statements have to involve the topics that make them popular. Under defamation law, actual malice involves the careers of actors or sports players but not their personal lives.

How to determine limited-purpose public figures

Public figures who are in controversy are subject to the public interest. Whether they count as limited-purpose public figures may depend on:

• The depth of the person’s participation in the controversy
• The amount of freedom the person has when engaging in the controversy
• Whether the person uses the media to advocate their cause

Defamation law can be murky regarding who is a limited-purpose public figure. An example of a limited-purpose public figure is a retired general who talks about national security issues. If the public forgets the person’s controversy, a limited-purpose public figure can lose its status.